Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

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Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 27th January 2023

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿41 to one Pound Sterling
฿36 to one Euro
฿23 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.60 THB to one Philippine Peso

Stewart

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 178,000 (including a 52,000 baht housing allowance)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work at a newish and expanding Tier 1 international school in East Bangkok. The salary is 163,000 a month plus yearly bonus. 10% of the salary per year is paid monthly through a provident fund to save on tax. After tax I am left with 133,500 per month. I am also in a lucky position to have yearly flights home and worldwide medical insurance.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I can save between £22,000-£25,000 per year so around 80,000 - 100,000 per month depending on expenses, holidays and costs. It also depends on the exchange rate when transferring back to the UK. The last five years has been anything from 37-47 Baht to the £.

COVID stopped us traveling abroad but now we can really take advantage of living in SE Asia. Therefore this is an added cost compared to the previous 3 years.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 44,000 for a large two-bedroom apartment in Thonglor. It is an older building but a renovated unit with communal facilities such as the swimming pool, which has also been renovated. The benefit of the older building means the units are large at around 150 square meters.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I have a bike so I ride that to work and usually spend around 300 baht per month on fuel. I don't use it a huge amount over the weekend due to having the BTS/MRT. The journey to work takes around 25 minutes. I probably spend another 500 on the public transport system.

Utility bills

Electricity - 1,400 baht
Water - 100 baht
Broadband - 800 baht
Cleaner - 2,500 baht
All a huge saving compared to monthly totals in the UK!

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We enjoy taking advantage of the fantastic food available in the city.
We usually order Thai food from Grab/Food panda from Monday - Thursday evenings and then eat out from Friday - Sunday.
We eat lunch at work most days.

Lunch - 1,500 baht
Supermarket (breakfast and sundries) - 1,500 baht
Weekday Dinner - 1,600 baht
Weekend - 8,000 baht

Nightlife and drinking

I think since COVID I now spend less than I used to, I still go out as much but will usually go home earlier. I haven't really kept a tab but I would imagine around 8,500 baht a month.

Books, computers

I am given these by my employer so only really need to buy a Netflix and Spotify account which comes in around 400 baht per month.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Excellent. I had a good life in the UK as I had a similar job, however the cost of living in the UK is substantially more expensive than in Thailand.

International schools are hard work though and I would probably say I work considerably more hours here compared to my old job in the UK, however the benefits provide a wonderful standard of living.

With the easing of the pandemic, living in Bangkok also allows you to visit so many amazing countries and save massively on long haul flights from the UK. Living in Thailand also give you access to meet new people and experience a completely different culture to the UK.

I also have a small property in the UK which I rent out and although I don't make a huge deal of profit, the mortgage and fees are covered by the rent.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

There are many great bargains in Thailand and although Bangkok is an expensive city, it is still far cheaper than most UK regional cities. Once you are out of the tourist areas and into the provinces, Thailand is a fraction of the price of the UK.

The big savings are fuel, utilities, internal flights (less so now), local cuisine, motorcycles, taxis and public transportation such as boats, trains and buses.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I suppose it depends on your what you expect from life and how skilled or experienced you are in your industry. If you are willing to live local or try your hand at a new industry on an entry level wage then you could live on 40,000 in Bangkok which would include a small apartment in a less central location. Out of Bangkok, Phuket, Samui etc you could probably live on 25,000.

However, if you wish to live a similar life to what you have been used to in Europe, North America, Singapore then I would say around 75,000 plus housing.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Stewart. I'm assuming here that the 178,000 baht package INCLUDES the housing allowance (In the survey you sent, you stated that the housing allowance was on top of the 178,000 baht salary so to be honest, I'm still not sure) Also I'm not sure if in the food section, the supermarket costs and the weekday dinner costs are weekly or monthly. The numbers don't really stack up if they are taken over a month. But some good points to ponder all the same.   


Colin

Working in Phuket

Monthly Earnings 33,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My full-time salary is 1,650 baht per day multiplied by 20 days. Factor in a bit of tax and an end of semester bonus or two and it comes out to around 33,000 per month.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Around 10,000 baht a month.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I share a house with another person and my half-share of that is just 5,000.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I ride my scooter to work. I live next to the coast but work in town, so about 800 baht a month on gas.

Utility bills

Water is a fixed cost at 200 baht while electricity comes in at 1500-1700. We use the A/C every night but not during the day.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I usually cook at home at night but I buy food during the day. I also just have oats or cereal in the morning. Groceries for dinner and breakfast are about 2,000 baht a month and lunch is around 50 baht per day.

Nightlife and drinking

I do go out on weekends. Maybe once a month I'll have a fun spending night with friends, but usually we BBQ at home on weekends or have dinner and drinks at inexpensive restaurants.

Books, computers

I bought my laptop and most of my electronics online from Lazada at a fraction of the price it would have cost in my home country.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I live comfortably here, it's a beautiful place, there is plenty do to and to explore without breaking the bank.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

The cost of living is much less than back home. Drinks are expensive, but food is cheap and accommodation is affordable.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

One will always want more, but I do live comfortably on my salary and I do manage to save money. If my salary was more, I would love to think that I would be able to save more, but I'd probably do a lot more things and my spending would increase.

Phil's analysis and comment

This survey was sent in anonymously so let's call him (or her) Colin. This person does extremely well to live in Phuket, one of the most expensive places in Thailand, on 23K a month. I'm not saying it couldn't be done but it must be one hell of a challenge! The food

 numbers don't really stack up for me. Assuming dinner is the main meal of the day, it means Colin spends 66 baht a day on breakfast AND dinner. I know cooking at home can reduce costs considerably but even so... 


Wilf

Working in Pathum Thani, near Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 30,000 - 50,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I'm a retired UK school teacher in my late 50s and I've earned the reputation as a 'Mr Reliable'. I'm on the books of several language schools, I do a bit of part-time work at a nearby college and I have several online students. Frankly speaking I don't need the money but I take on enough work to keep me fairly busy and to keep the old grey matter ticking over.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I don't really consider it. As long as I can earn between 30-50K because that's about how much it costs me to live here, it means I never have to dip into my nest egg.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I bought a one-bedroom condo several years ago so don't have any rent to pay. I knew from a friend that there was plenty of teaching work in this area (which there is) so I always make sure I don't have to go very far for a job.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I use the BTS and subway systems quite often so it probably amounts to around 2,000 a month.

Utility bills

About 4,000 a month. I have the air-con on all the time when I'm at home.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I do like my western food but I try to mix it 50/50 with Thai. I never cook at home and always eat out. This is probably about 10,000 a month. I could get that figure considerably lower if I just ate at my regular Thai place where it's 50 baht a dish but I find I can't do that for more than two days running and get the craving for a burger and fries. I do think western food is quite pricey in Thailand though.

Nightlife and drinking

Almost zero. I have the odd beer at home but rarely go out in the evening. It's never really been my thing. I get asked to go out on social evenings quite often but I make it clear to people that I generally prefer my own company. Eventually they get the message and stop asking.

Books, computers

I love my technology. I've always got to have the latest laptop and mobile phone. I bet most of my money goes in this area but difficult to put a figure on it. Let's just say I can afford it.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Wonderful. I'm lucky to have a decent retirement fund so the money I earn from teaching here is just icing on a very lovely cake. I don't live a lavish lifestyle though nor am I interested in one. I've always been a 'saver' rather than a 'spender'.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

I don't think there are that many real bargains anymore but the cost of staying in hotels outside of Bangkok can be very reasonable for what you get.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

In my opinion, Bangkok has become as expensive as most other capital cities in the world. The days of living here are cheaply are gone (and I've been coming here on and off for almost three decades) I don't know how anyone could survive on less than 50K and if you wanted the full package (pension plan, travel, etc) you would need closer to 80-100K as an absolute minimum.

Phil's analysis and comment

I love this survey, Wilf. There's just so much common sense and reality in those words of yours! Firstly, you're in an ideal situation aren't you? You've made your money elsewhere and teaching is a nice way to cover your Bangkok living expenses without dipping into savings. As you say, it also keeps the mind active of course and I always think that's important as you get older. Well done sir!


Daemon

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 141,000 (Including wife's income)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I did a cost of living survey back in April. Back then I was making 64K teaching full-time at large Thai private primary/secondary school and had to send about 20K back home to my wife every month. Since then, I managed to get a great job in an international school and things have improved considerably. My full-time salary is now 98K. My wife finally finished her B.Ed, moved here permanently, and quickly found a teaching job where she makes 43K a month. So put together, our total income is 141,000 per month. I decided to send this new survey because I thought it would be interesting to compare my lifestyle then and now.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

We have been able to save around 60-65K every month.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

We pay 18K a month for a very comfortable 1-bedroom apartment in the center of Bangkok, right outside an MRT station. It's way more than our old 7K-a-month studio apartment, but we love the new place. Our quality of life there has vastly improved (big kitchen, nice living room, bedroom, and bathroom). All things considered, we're spending only 13% of our income on housing, which is not bad at all.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

My wife and I each take a taxi to work in the morning and then we both take the BTS/MRT back home. We each spend about 4K a month on transportation, so 8K in total. We could save more by taking the MRT/BTS to go to work in the morning, but a taxi is faster and more convenient/less hassle.

Utility bills

Electricity: 1,700
Water: 350
Wifi: 750
Mobile internet: 800

The electricity bill is almost double now in our new place, but it's still much cheaper than in our home country.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is our biggest expense: Around 25K a month. We are not big fans of Thai food so we cook during the week and buying western ingredients can be expensive in Bangkok. We also like to treat ourselves on the weekends (Indian food, Mexican, Italian, pizza etc).

Nightlife and drinking

We don't like to party and we drink very little. It's usually a beer or two on the weekends and a couple of bottles of wine every month. All in all, not more than a thousand baht.

Books, computers

We love staying in and watching movies and TV shows, so we spend about 1,200 on streaming services. We also enjoy going to the cinema and probably spend another 1,000 a month there.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Very comfortable. We live in a spacious, comfortable, well-located apartment, eat well, travel, and save a large chunk of our incomes. My wife and I both worked very hard and sacrificed a lot to achieve our professional goals, including being apart for almost three years during the pandemic, while she finished her undergraduate degree and teaching qualification in our home country. During that time, I also studied towards a higher-level qualification while teaching full-time here in Thailand. But it all worked out in the end. We are both teaching abroad and enjoying a quality of life that would be virtually impossible for teachers in our home country.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

I continue to find rent here very affordable. Here, it's only 13% of our income. Back home it's usually 40-50%, if not more. Transportation here is also a bargain, taxis, MRT/BTS, buses, they're all affordable.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

To live a relatively comfortable life in Bangkok, I'm still convinced that a single person needs at least 50K a month (after taxes). If you're not into partying and drinking too much and don't mind eating Thai food or cooking during the week, you can find a decent apartment, travel, and save a bit every month on that income. For surviving only (no savings, not much traveling, just making ends meet) I'd say 30-35K.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Daemon. That sounds like a great success story you have there. An extra 34,000 baht a month is always going to make a hell of a difference but you throw your wife's 40K+ into the mix and your standard of living has obviously skyrocketed. As you say, you and your wife sacrificed a lot and are now deservedly reaping the rewards. Well done!  


TJ

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 60-65K

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I make 52K from my basic salary working in a nice private school in Ladpro and up to 7K for after school classes plus approximately 5,600 baht a month with a private adult student once per week for two hours.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Realistically 10K a month. I've only just started earning this amount. If there are no cancellations from private work or the after school work, then maybe 15K. Unfortunately the after school work and private work isn't consistent and doesn't run all year round.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 6K a month for a two-bedroom apartment in an older apartment building. It's a steal for 52 square metres and only a 5-10 minute walk from the BTS. It's one of those places that can only be found through word of mouth and if you don't mind it being a bit dated and not having amenities that you would find in a more modern condo, then it's a great deal.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I walk the five minutes to work so only maybe the BTS and taxis on the weekend. I would say 500 to 1000 baht maximum.

Utility bills

Water and electricity normally sets me back 1200 to 1500 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is expensive here. A fortnightly shop for my girlfriend and I will set me back around 2K. I get free lunch at school but I do eat out in restaurants a few times a week with my girlfriend. So in total I would say 8K a month or maybe 10k at a push.

Nightlife and drinking

Once or twice a week. Probably 10-15K a month for two people.

Books, computers

I have a second hand Dell that works great that I got for 5K and I only buy second hand books when needed.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

It's a reasonable life. I go out a fair bit and can afford to treat myself and my girlfriend from time to time. I go to a nice gym and live in a spacious condo. By the way, my girlfriend works five days a week in a salon but only has a typical thai wage. She shares the bills sometimes when we go out and uses the rest for things she needs. I've heard of Thais making loads of money selling stuff online but in my opinion it's pretty hit or miss.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Rent and hotels.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I would say 40K for a single person in Bangkok, 60K for a couple and 80-100K for a family.

Phil's analysis and comment

TJ's survey brings up a very important point that I've made before but haven't mentioned for a while. Never consider private students as part of your monthly income when you are doing any financial planning or budgeting. It's your regulary salary that counts; the income from private students is only ever the icing on the cake, and icing that isn't always there. December is a prime example of a month when many students cancel to go travelling or attend functions, etc, and by and large a teacher is just left with their basic salary.  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 403 total

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